I can remember the first time I had to eat alone at a restaurant. I’d moved to a new city where I didn’t know anyone; my lack of interest in fast food and the lack of a kitchen in my summer apartment had me sitting at many a restaurant two-seater with nothing but a book for company. My face burning with the realization that people were probably pitying me, I’d have he intense urge to awkwardly announce that I did indeed have friends and that someone somewhere probably loved me.
At the time I believed it to be torture. I ate every meal a little red faced.
I realize that sounds dramatic, but, it’s a pretty accurate description.
At this point in my life, it is one of my favorite things to do.
Not just eating out alone either, but, going to movies, getting coffee, spending time at the park, and yes, drinking.
Here are the reasons I think you should do the same:
1. Learn to enjoy time with yourself!
I think there’s nothing more attractive then a person who can entertain themselves. If you have a great time and are happy in your own skin and without the help of anyone else, then, there’s probably no one I want to be around more. There’s something about independent people that I believe to be contagious! Also, there’s a Harvey Danger song that says, “if you’re bored, then you’re boring.” I’ll leave it at that.
2. You don’t have to consult anyone!
I have this issue with guilt. I have to know everyone is happy and having a good time. If we go to the movie that I want to see then I feel guilty that someone else may not want to be watching it. However, going by myself gives me the chance to watch all the movies that others may not want to see or go to restaurants without discussing it. I can make every decision as I feel it. If I want to go somewhere there’s no one to discuss it with, I can just go!
3. You have time with your thoughts.
I spend so much of my time with other people that I often forget to ask myself what I think about things. I listen to other’s opinions and I’m easily persuaded. But, at the end of the day I want to make sure I’m aware of my thoughts and concerns. What is it that I’m passionate about? What do I really think about our governor? What am I spending the most of my time doing and is it building the life I want to have? Spending even just a few hours alone with your thoughts can spark new creativity and I often surprise myself with what I come up with.
4. Meet New People!
It can be difficult to make new friends when you’re with other people. But, it can be simple to connect to people when you’re out alone. Just smiling at a stranger could result in a conversation deeper than you would have with some of your closest friends. True story: last week I was alone at my favorite coffee shop and made 3 new friends in 30 minutes, exchanged phone numbers with all of them and have plans to hang out! I’ve even met clients by having meals by myself.
For a while now I’ve practiced the habit of sharing a day with myself. I take myself to the movies, out for coffee, and to a great meal. It usually ends in bourbon and my journal and I’ve never regretted a single one.
I’d like to challenge you to do the same. If you give it a go, here are a few pieces of advice:
1. Put the phone down.
It’s very tempting to spend the entire time ‘checking your e-mail’ or looking busy. Put your phone away for as much of your time as possible. Look people in the eye, admire the color of the walls, feel the air on your skin, and absorb what it feels like to be right where you are doing exactly what you are doing.
2. Bring a book.
It’s comforting to have somewhere to put your eyes. If taking in your surroundings doesn’t take up much of your time and you find yourself lonely or tempted to check your phone than have something pleasant to read along with you.
3. Don’t read your book the entire time!
Yes, it’s comforting to have somewhere to put your eyes, but, push yourself to have no social safety net. It may thrill you.
It shows that you’re secure and opens you up to conversations with new people. (If that’s what you’re into.)
I’ve had some of my favorite nights alone and I’ve made some of my most life-altering decisions over an amazing bourbon that I savored every last sip of, by myself.
Do you have any awkward dining alone stories? Any success stories? I’d love to hear them!